Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church has a wonderful tradition of inviting scholars from around our country to spend time with us to share their research and apply it to our life and work as a congregation. The Theologian-in-Residence program was created in appreciation for the ministry of David and Ruth Watermulder here at BMPC for 24 years.
This year’s Theologian-in-Residence is the Rev. Dr. David Grafton (who teaches at Hartford Seminary in their MacDonald Center for Islamic Studies and Christian Muslim Relations). Prior to that Dr. Grafton taught for many years here in Philadelphia at the Lutheran Seminary. He also taught at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, the same seminary where my husband and I served in Egypt.
Our Adult Education Council extended this invitation to Dr. Grafton as part of a yearlong focus on the study of Islam and our relationship as Christians to our Muslim neighbors. The Theologian in Residence programs this year will kick off a variety of moments to learn from local scholars as well as opportunities to actually engage in dialogue with the Muslim community here on the Main Line.
This weekend and next, Dr. Grafton will present a broad range of topics that seek to equip us as a congregation to engage in informed and thoughtful conversations on these issues. Topics range from the basics of the Muslim faith to tools for interfaith dialogue; from the ways that politics and religion seem to be enmeshed when we talk about Islam and the ways that different Muslim traditions engage in the world.
This year’s programs will be split up into three different opportunities, including two Sunday lectures in Congregational Hall on October 9 and 16, as well as a morning long session with Dr. Grafton on Saturday the 15th, for those who are looking to deepen their understanding and confidence when it comes to engaging in thoughtful interfaith conversations.
Even after living for two years in a Muslim majority country myself, I continue to seek out ways to be better informed on these issues. So much of the work we need to do as individuals and as a congregation is to unlearn many of the things that we have assumed for so many years about Islam. We need to be able to recognize many of the things we share in common with our neighbors when it comes to service and community ties. And we need to become more comfortable representing our own faith tradition in gracious ways as we seek to live in the model of Jesus Christ.
I hope that you will be able to join us at these gatherings!
- Sunday, October 9, 11:15 a.m. in Congregational Hall: “What is Islam? The Pillars of Faith and Practice”
- Saturday, October 15, 9:00 a.m. - noon in Congregational Hall: “American Views of Islam: Current Social-Political Context” and “What Do American Muslims Believe about this Country?
- Sunday, October 16, 11:15 a.m. in Congregational Hall: “The Variety of Pieties of Muslims”